News Flash! Flash!

Dear Elf-friends,

Well, I’m baaaaaack!

Boy, that went by fast! Honest to goodness, I can remember writing my summer vacation post in “Ask Elfmom” as if it were yesterday. Summer and fall are an absolute blur of sand and sun and heat and ocean waves and travel, travel, travel and every hue of autumn leaf and haunted hayrides and Renfaires and powwows and the everpresent glow of my computer monitor – which, on more than one occasion, has been in danger of being tossed into the street.

Vacation, yes, elf-friends, but definitely a working one. As Elfpop mentioned in one of the Scroll forums, most of my days have been full of activity that takes me back to the very roots of my earliest creative ambitions: I’ve been busy making little movies! Been teaching myself Apple’s iMovie, with an eye to graduating to Macromedia Flash. (Well, teaching myself and picking the brains of every kind soul I know who’s more experienced than I am.)

Despite its limitations, I’m just crazy about iMovie because the gratification is so instant. It’s great for animatics and testing simple frame by frame animations. Here, in fact, I’d like to share with you my first two itty bitty Elfquest related iMovies.

(Technical note: The following are QuickTime movies. If you don’t have QuickTime installed on your computer, you can get the Mac player for free here. Get the Windows version here.)

The first one is simply a series of animation turnarounds. I was just starting to learn the various available transitions and effects, as well as how to time it all to a soundtrack. Even so, look at the closing frames for some cute character interaction – I couldn’t resist. (The music is a track from Robbie Robertson’s CD “For the Native Americans” – it’s a wonderful album!)

The second EQ iMovie is quite a bit more elaborate. As you’ll see, “Love Scene 01” is taken from the sequence in Elfquest Book 1 when Leetah and Cutter finally get together. I’m still learning here, of course. A couple of the word balloons go by too fast, and some of the lettering could be larger. Nevertheless, I’m generally pleased with it as it helps me visualize a whole new way of telling stories – a way that could turn out to be a lot more sophisticated than the crude attempts that were made with our characters back in the early 1990s.

One more note on “Love Scene 01” – I must tell you about the temporary music score because it’s just so nostalgic. It comes from the original Kung Fu television series starring David Carradine that was on the air for several seasons back in the 1970s. At that time, Richard and I were deep into producing the story and art that comprised Elfquest Book 1. You have no idea how inspirational Jim Helm’s unique score for Kung Fu was to young me. Though it may sound dated now, that special combination of Asian and Native American themes was really innovative back then; the record album sold like hotcakes. And I played it until I wore the grooves in twice as deep! Anyway, the music you hear in “Love Scene 01” is the very piece that inspired the visuals for the moment when Leetah first speaks Cutter’s soul name. So, being sentimental, I just had to include it in this iMovie. Thought you’d appreciate that bit of trivia.

Update 11/14/06 – Couldn’t resist throwing one more effort into the mix! You may have seen this bit of animation as a GIF file. Here’s what it translates into in iMovie, complete with background. Our little “fighting cockerel” is alive!

Now, on to Flash. Any of you out there who’ve tried it, I guess you know what AAAARRGH!! means. I certainly do now. Everyone I’ve talked to says it takes months if not years to master it. But master it I shall, because I’m so excited about the possibilities it opens up as a result.

Warp Graphics has availed itself of the cutting-edge equipment and animation programs that can turn any home studio into a self-contained movie production unit. Which leads us to ask: What if the next new Elfquest story that appears is told in Flash animation – visualized and directed by us? After all this time, it really could happen! (And that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a graphic novel of the story, because the panels could be taken from individual movie frames. Japan has been leading the way with this method for more than a decade. And today we’re starting to see the print publication of books based on popular web comics in America. So, what’s to stop Warp or a licensee from doing the same?)

By the way, Elfquest isn’t the only subject matter I’m thinking of tackling in Flash (she said with a wicked gleam). Many of you have seen my two Beauty and the Beast graphic novels, which took me out of the realm of pure fantasy and into another genre I have great fondness for: gothic romance. To be more precise, I’m a real devotee of the Broadway musicals Sweeney Todd and Jekyll and Hyde, both of which are fascinating goth romance/thriller hybrids. A vampire fan, I’m not (although the stunning, breathtaking, utterly glorious Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is the most awesome animated film of its kind I’ve ever seen). But dark, brooding examinations of human nature told in baroque settings with fabulous costumes? I’m there! And I’ve got one such story of my own I’ve been dying to unfurl for you, like a black velvet cape!

Allow me to tease you just a trifle – and, yes, the temporary music track is excerpted from Jekyll and Hyde.

(Legal disclaimer: Please enjoy this clip – and the EQ ones – on your own computer but don’t copy or post them anywhere else. Copyright issues, you know – the music copyrights belong to the respective owners and publishers; all the Elfquest and Masque material is copyright Warp Graphics, Inc.)
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Visiting the various Scroll of Colors forums whenever I can, I’ve noted some of you asking when “Ask Elfmom” will start up again. Sounds like a good idea to me. That, along with doing the black and white character sketches for sale in the Wolfrider Shop, keeps me in touch with you and with the elves’ particular pure energy. I’ve just a couple of requests when we announce, shortly, that “Ask Elfmom” is back on tap:

One, please keep the length of your questions short – no more than two paragraphs. Having a limited amount of time to come up with answers, I tend to put page-long queries aside as being too much to deal with. (Some of you are quite verbose!)

Two, please try not to ask about – or ask questions of – really obscure, incidental characters who haven’t appeared in a long while. That’s just too hard. More questions for the featured characters of The Discovery, Searcher and the Sword, Full Circle, Wild Hunt, Hidden Years and even Shards would be most appreciated.

Sheesh! All of a sudden it’s after midnight! Time to wrap this up and dream of limitless shapes and symbols and instances and transformations and the wonderful new world they represent. In the musical “Camelot” King Arthur says the best way to get one’s self out of the doldrums is to learn something. In that case I’m a happy gal these days, indeed.

See you soon in the “Ask Elfmom” forum,